I was born in Zimbabwe in 1985, and I was very fortunate to be brought up on a farm in the central province. We spent much of our time as children in and around the farmlands, riding, fishing, exploring, and generally messing around in the bush. My early school years were spent in a country school with many other kids from around the farming districts. Those were fun years! It was then onto high school were my art developed. We were taught to observe and not to ‘make things up’. This was the basis of my early art education. It was around this time, in my early teenage years, that Craig Bone took me under his wing for a period. He taught me the fundamentals of what wildlife art is. From there I attended Rhodes University in South Africa where I obtained a Fine Arts degree. Those four years of fine art and art theory were worlds apart from the art I create now. University opened me up to the different types of art that people do. It was a really good life lesson.
Currently I am based in Harare, Zimbabwe. I love being in the bush and try to get away as much as possible. I mainly travel to Mana Pools in the Zambezi Valley. It is one of the few remaining places in the world where one can walk in the bush without a guide. However, this is not advisable unless you have experience on your side. Another area that I am passionate about is the southern part of Zimbabwe known as the lowveld. There is pristine beauty down there. I am very fortunate, as the animals I love to observe and paint are only a few hours away, and there are many times when I have to remind myself as to just how lucky I am to be able to experience this sort of diversity in the bush.
Apart from the obvious sale and/or auctioning of artwork to aid financially in the conservation of wildlife through various organisations, paintings seem to embody a life of their own. It is a great pleasure to watch people engrossed in conversation about a painting that reminds them of a certain place or scene that they have seen. It is this feeling that can highlight the need for conservation of these precious animals that for many decades we have taken for granted.
I love working in oils, or oil paint. This is where my passion lies. Oils have an aura about them. They have done for many centuries now, and will do for many more. Oils are rich in colour and provide me with many ways or techniques to try and experiment with to reach a desired result. They are very versatile. In saying this, subject matter and composition then become very important. Apart from doing a few black and white pencil pieces throughout the year, I try to sketch when I am in the field. This keeps my eye in and reminds me of certain places and things that I have seen. This provides part of the process, but photography plays a vital role in any wildlife artist’s life. In the past I used to take thousands of photographs of everything and found that I was overwhelmed with the sheer number of photos. I also found that they were not that good anyway. So I have started to focus on the quality of the photograph, and found that the better the reference material, generally the better the painting. With quality images I find I can combine a few photographs together to create scenes that engage with the viewer.
I think that it takes many years to build up one’s own style of painting and unique style. It takes many yards of canvas and many mistakes to be able to start to get it right.
My work can be found online at www.garethhook.com and the major social media sites link Facebook and Instagram at garethhookart. Links are on these sites to be able to get in touch.